Minn. man runs his 96th marathon since being told he has five years to live in 2003
FARGO - He was given a maximum of five years to live. So Duluth, Minn., native Don Wright ran. He didn't run away from the diagnosis. He didn't run away from death.
FARGO – He was given a maximum of five years to live. So Duluth, Minn., native Don Wright ran. He didn't run away from the diagnosis. He didn't run away from death.
The 75-year-old runs the marathon roads in front of him because the finish line for life is too close.
"I can't gauge the worth of life another year with family and friends and even another day in my running shoes," Wright said. "I lead this kind of rich life only because of the innovative new medications coming along that are too costly for some. That has to change."
Wright was one of the around 12,000 fighting the sun, running in the Scheels Fargo Marathon Saturday, May 21. It was his 96th marathon since he was diagnosed with cancer and the third time he had run the Fargo Marathon.
"I just love this marathon," Wright said. "I wish I could do it every year."
Wright still remembers the phone call from the doctor in 2003. He felt great at the time. It was just a simple back issue that originally brought him to the doctor's office. He figured removing chin-ups from his workout routine had fixed the problem.
With his wife of 53 years, Ardis, right by him, Wright answered the phone and the doctor said "I've made an appointment for you with an oncologist."
"Those are the words you don't want to hear," Wright said.
It was multiple myeloma-a rare form of cancer of plasma cells. There was no cure. He was given between three and five years to live. He'd be dead before his only grandson would be old enough to remember him.
"I think I doubted it at first. I felt good and my back was fine," Wright said. "I actually felt, even if it was an incurable cancer, I might be able to beat it because I felt so good. I'm still denying it. I'm still not sure it's going to get me."
Wright didn't qualify for the Boston Marathon in the marathon right before being diagnosed with cancer, so he figured he'd go for it.
"I didn't qualify in my first marathon, which I also thought would be my last," Wright said. "Running Boston was on my bucket list and the bucket was more visible, so I figured I'd go for it."
Wright qualified, ran the Boston Marathon and, along with Ardis and his daughter, they decided to go to all 50 states. They hit all 50 states by 2012 and decided to go for 100 marathons.
After seven years of avoiding chemo with a pill in a clinical trial, a PET scan recently showed the pill no longer was working. The next two trials didn't work and Wednesday, May 25, Wright will find out if his current trial is helping. Whatever the news is Wednesday, Wright has his goal.
"One way or another, I'll get to 100," Wright said.
He runs for Patients Rising, which is a group that fights for access to treatments for patients with life-threatening and chronic diseases. The plan is to run in Vancouver in three weeks, Dayton, Ohio, in September, Des Moines, Iowa, in October and get marathon No. 100 in Philadelphia in November. He even has marathon No. 101 planned for New Orleans in December. His first grandson is now 10 and will always remember him. He's working on making sure his 2-year-old grandchild will remember him.
As long as the road continues, Wright will keep running.
"Still alive. Still running," Wright said.